In the early 1990's a revolution took place in Eastern Europe, The Soviet Union crumbled and from the ashes rose 15 independent states, each with their own unique national identity, cultures and cuisines. Spreading throughout the cold North-Western Baltic states to the southern republics on the Caspian and Black Seas to the central Asian desert states, this means incredible diversity between dishes with distinct regionality. We don't see much cuisine from the former Soviet states in London, so many of their dishes remain a mystery to us.
However, the Parkholme Supperclub in Dalston are bringing the cuisine of the region to London for two very special nights next month, May 1st (Labour Day - a natural fit for the former communist counties) and May 8th. The event is also a fundraiser for international charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, a humanitarian aid organisation that works all over the world including many of these states. Human rights and personal freedoms are limited at best in many of these states, meaning that the work of the charity is crucial in maintaining stability. A suggested donation is £40, of which around £35 will go directly to the charity with the rest covering the cost of ingredients. All the staff are volunteers and the organisation is entirely not-for-profit.
Chefs have been recruited for the occasion from many of these states, so the cooking will be genuinely authentic. From the baltic region will be Latvian herring with carrots and onions and Lithuanian Cepelinai, a potato dish with a bacon sauce. Moving South, you could try Gulbishik from Belarus, Ukrainan Borscht (beetroot soup), or Moldovan Placinta - baked cheese and raisins in pastry. The Caucasus region will supply Batlijani from Georgia – aubergines with walnut paste and pomegranate seeds, and Armenian Summer Bozbash with okra and lamb.
The Central Asian States are well represented too, with Turkmenistani fish dumplings from the Caspian sea, chickpea and onion stew from Tajikistan, Lamb pilaff from Uzbekistan and Sour Mutton Stew from Kazakhstan. Everything you know about Kazakhstan is almost certainly based on a fictional character, so it's worth going into this with a completely open mind! Most excitingly of all though is the Torte Napoleon, a totally amazing Russian dessert baked in 16 individual layers and completely worth all the effort.
So, as they around these parts - nazdarovye! A toast to good food, a great evening's entertainment and supporting a very worthwhile cause.
Tues 1st May & Tues 8th May
Parkholme Road, Dalston, E8.